By letting go did you mean letting go of life?!
Yes. We have helped one with this struggle and it is quite deadly what the self-mortifying mind comes up with. Depression is craving death. Telling a severely depressed person to “just let go” is essentially supporting their impulse to commit suicide. They have difficulty hanging on to the grace and beauty that is smothered in a blanket of despair.
Letting go means stopping craving and not (necessarily) letting go of the object of that craving!
Oh no, it’s quite alright! I rather enjoy the direction this discussion has taken. I’m just surprised that it generated this much of a response. Please, everyone, do continue!
Venerable Nyanamoli. It seems to me, that the Dhamma is inclusive, not exclusive. But that you have to “want” it. Right intention is the foundation.
In Western societies there are lot of lonely elders are locked in nursing homes and old age pension homes. My friend is a part of a Christian mission that he meet lonely people in nursing homes and old age pesnsion houses. He said he mainly read Sutta or Dhamma stories to them.
I have visited to one of these places with my friends.
The lonelyness is a big problem for people who does not have some spiritual refuge.
You have mistaken me for Ven. Nyanamoli.
In any case, could you explain what you mean?
Right Intention can be said to be foundation, but that foundation includes the other factors of the noble 8-fold-path. The Path is inclusive in that sense. When one of the right factors are there, the others will be there simultaneously.
To even find the path one has to want it, and so the intention is key, in that sense, one needs to have a proper motivation, a good enough reason to want to do it. The N8f path is for people who are seriously dedicated in trying to be free from suffering, forever, completely, and that doesn’t mean that they can easily attain it either. It’s not a part-time hobby that can be picked up and put down casually. The Path is not accessible to those who do not take it seriously. So in that way it its exclusive, to be known only by the wise.
If a person cannot even keep the 5 precepts, for example, then for them there is no possibility of doing anything Right/samma .
@Mat This is a dangerous oversimplification. I’m surprised, as you’re a psychiatrist, so I’m sure you know from experience that people can’t just suddenly and magically “let go” of the issues that cause their suffering. You would also be aware of the complex social relationship between loneliness or social isolation, and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, self harm and suicidal thoughts.
Better social engagement provides abundant positive outcomes that help people come out of these types of suffering and become healthy. We can’t say someone is suffering but then invalidate the causes and results of that suffering. Pithy pseudo-spiritual slogans like “just let go” are not really helpful.
Very well said. I’m a speech-language pathologist in training. Research has shown that if babies are left alone without social interaction and language, after a certain critical age, they can no longer acquire language. Their lack of language then adversely affects the rest of their lives and they suffer a great deal. Homo sapiens are social creatures.
Thanks so much for posting this @Timothy.
I note that it may have been a sense of loneliness that drove me away, in part, from continuing the 8 precepts, as I had done for about three years. I am very glad for that training period, but I had done a good job of isolating myself from certain activities and people in an effort to not be around entertainments and to not be around food and meals after midday.
When I lived in a wat and kept 8 and then samanera precepts, I was as happy as a clam. Returning to lay life, I lasted about three years until I realized that for my own mental health I needed to connect with people again in a conventional way, and to join people when invited for a meal in the evening. For me, when I started asking my dog for advice, it was time to make a bit of a change.
I note all of this not to be talking about myself, but maybe to offer the idea that we need to be mindful and careful with this practice to not let the renunciation practice become a curtain that we pull down in front of our ancestral and biological need to be connected with people. I’m still practicing reasonably well, and fare pretty well avoiding a lot of the usual western nonsense that many seek for entertainment. I’m very OK with living alone/empty nester, and see this as a benefit to practice. But, this video is a great reminder to not let our devotion to practice be a facade for cutting ourselves off from what keeps us biologically and mentally well; if we don’t have a vibrant wat to live in, it may be helpful to take some of the advice from this video to heart and try to keep a balance between renunciation and being at least healthily connected to family, friends, and our communities.
It can be tricky knowing which direction (towards/away from society) is the more skilful/appropriate path to chose, esp as time and circumstances are always changing. I could easily have fallen prey to a false facade.
Perhaps AN 10.99 can help
By Ven. Sujato
When they have this noble spectrum of ethics, this noble sense restraint, and this noble mindfulness and situational awareness,
they frequent a secluded lodging—a wilderness, the root of a tree, a hill, a ravine, a mountain cave, a charnel ground, a forest, the open air, a heap of straw.
My approach is from CBT, and this video (and most would approve) is based on the assumption that craving for company needs to be ‘fed’ for it to be all better…
They are, though the first might lead to the second. To me loneliness is an example of dukkha, wanting something that we do not currently have. On the other hand humans are social animals and companionship is a valid need, and loneliness is increasingly prevalent in our fragmented western society. Ironically it appears that “social media” have compounded rather than reduced the problem.
Perhaps the loneliness is the result of five hindrances.
Person in Jhana does not have the lonelyness.
Well exactly- it’s hard to imagine living in seclusion without jhana!
Here is a timely article in The New York Times about a recent experiment on loneliness conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and several other institutions (I am also including a link to the study). The experiment involved subjects, some of whom were assigned to use a phone app that prompted them to cultivate “mindfulness” and/or “equanimity.” The researchers found that subjects who were assigned to indicate mindfulness and equanimity exhibited lower levels of loneliness. Draw your own conclusions.
I look forward to reading these, but before doing so I can feel a logic. If I’m mindful of the moment I can relax and take a social encounter as it comes; if I’m not being mindful then my mind may be racing around doing all sorts of unhelpful things like criticising the appearance of someone I’m speaking with or worrying about whether they approve of what I’m saying. Absolutely enough to send me scuttling back home asap!!
I’ve noticed that doubts tend to arise on inhalation rather than exhalation. Have you had similar experience?
Tanouye Roshi, who was a master of sword, once told us that the opponent is always weakest when breathing in. That is the time to strike. Therefore that is the time we are weakest.